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ripen, and harvest would increase his stores? Most assuredly not. But is not this expectation founded on his knowledge of the existence of general, and, within certain bounds, invariable laws? He knows that God has endowed the soil with such qualities, that, if the proper pains be employed, it will cause the sown seed to germinate. He knows, further, that God has so ordered the seasons as to afford "the former and the latter rain,' and to cause his sun to give forth his increased light and warmth at such a time, and in such a degree, as to enable the qualities inherent in the soil beneficially to operate; and he knows, further, that the seed he sows is gifted with such a property, that, on the application of these means, it will not only develope its germ, causing its root to spread in the earth, and its leaves and stem to spring forth to the light of day, but that it will grow and expand, undergoing in its progress numerous changes, till at last it will yield a great increase of valuable grain, of the same nature as that which was buried, and appeared for a time to be lost in the earth. Were it not for the general laws thus impressed on the soil, the seasons, and the seed, the husbandman could have no such reasonable expectation. He would therefore cease to till and manure his soil; and he would regard it as madness to waste his precious corn by strewing it on the ground. His occupation would be gone.
The business of the farmer, then, is the result of those beneficent general laws, which the Creator has impressed on his works; and, if we now see the earth crowned with plenty, and smiling under its load of precious gifts, it is because experience has taught man that he who soweth in hope shall reap in joy.
This is but a single instance of a creative arrangement, the beneficial tendency of which is too obvious to need further comment. Were it not for the undeviating nature of those general laws by which earthly affairs are regulated, there could be no stimulus to industry in any department of art or science. Science, indeed, would have no foundation on which to rest. Its first principles would be destroyed, and it would cease to exist.
would it be different with art. On what could human ingenuity operate, or for what end, if there were no fixed properties in natural objects, and no known result of any labor?
General and permanent laws, then, are of the first importance in calling forth and exercising the faculties of rational beings. Without them society would stand still, and human beings, if they survived at all, would be as helpless, unintelligent, and dependent, as an infant in the arms of its mother. The depraved heart of man, however, perverts every thing; and that very system, which is so beautifully adapted to the developement of our faculties, and the promotion of our happiness, has been so misrepresented and abused as to form an argument against the providential government of the Creator, or, where the argument was not formally stated, at least to leave a practical effect of a similar tendency on the mind. There is a very general impression, even among professing Christians, who would utterly reject the inference, if presented to them in the shape of a doctrine, that whatever occurs is the accidental or necessary result of natural causes; by which means they practically exclude God from his works. They acknowledge the superintending providence of God. In the time of danger or of sorrow, they may shudder to think that they are suffering under his avenging hand, and they would willingly cast themselves into his arms, and repose in his bosom. But this is, with such persons, rather a superstitious than a religious feeling. It does not accompany them into the common events of life. It may occasionally fill them with terror, or cast around them a delusive security; but it does not, under ordinary circumstances, elevate their souls with pious hope, nor warm them with gratitude, nor give a relish to their enjoyments.
In the operations of Nature, the laws of the Creator are so uniform, effects follow so directly from natural causes, that they are regarded rather as necessary results, than as indications of the beneficent government of a Father-God. The thoughtless and irreligious look no further, but content themselves with forming some vague
idea of unintelligent mechanical powers acting necessarily and independently. They even give this mechanical agent a name, and call it Nature, thus putting the effect for the cause, and deifying a mere system of unintelligent laws. And is it come to this? Shall we shut our eyes to the innumerable proofs which break in upon us on every side, of intelligence, and wisdom, and goodness? Shall the very plan which most distinctly displays these perfections, be employed to disprove them? Shall God be excluded from his universe, and an inconscious machine substituted in his place?
It does seem passing strange, not merely that the system of creation should be so perverted, but that the Gospel of Jesus Christ should be so glaringly abused. One would imagine that the religion, whose distinguishing characteristic it is to refer every thing to a God infinitely powerful, wise, and good, and which so emphatically declares, that not even a sparrow falleth to the ground without His appointment, and that He numbers the very hairs of our heads, would save even its nominal professors from this inconsistency. One would think, that, in whatever doctrine a Christian may err, he would at least be saved from erring in this; that, professing a faith which, in every page, reminds him of a particular providence, and which founds all its principles, and all its sanctions on this important truth, he could not but have his mind filled with a constant sense of the Divine presence, and be led to reverence and adore his Creator and Redeemer in every event of his life. But it is not so; and nothing assuredly tends to prove more forcibly the weakness of our nature, than this direct and most lamentable contradiction between principles and practice.
Should not this humbling view lead us to a deep searching of our own hearts, and cause us to cast ourselves on the guidance and support of Him, who knows and pities our infirmities, and whose strength is made perfect in weakness?
IN European countries, the humane practice prevails of permitting the poor to glean the corn-fields, after the reapers. It is a practice obviously founded on the Mosaic law, and is at least as old as the entrance of the Children of Israel into possession of the land of Canaan. By that law, the destitute inhabitants were permitted to glean three different kinds of produce,—that of the vine, that of the olive, and that of grain. With the view of rendering this law effective for the relief of the poor, it was required, that, after the olive-tree was beaten, the owner should not "go over the boughs again," and that, when the grapes were gathered, he should not "glean the vineyard afterwards ;"-what was left, in both cases, becoming the property of "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow." In like manner, and for the same object, when the farmer reaped his corn, he was forbidden to make " a clean riddance" of the corners of the field, or to gather any of the gleanings; and he was even enjoined to abstain from removing, for his own use, any sheaf, which, when carrying home his grain, he might inadvertently have left behind. Every one is acquainted with the beautiful and affecting story of Ruth, the Moabitess, in which this practice, as it prevailed among the descendants of Abraham, is graphically introduced. The benevolent intention of this law cannot be mistaken; and the custom, though not enjoined by the Gospel, is too conformable to its spirit to have been overlooked or neglected, in almost any quarter where Christianity has extended its influence.
On the subject of gleaning, as practised in England, the following sensible observations are extracted from the Journal of a Naturalist. "It may be difficult to comprehend how the picking up of a head of corn here,
and another there, should be a remunerative employ ;